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UEFA Champions League: The Dream XI

As new stars emerge in a season with little competition for titles, here's the dream starting XI.

Updated: June 8, 2015 1:53:30 pm
Champions League, UEFA champions league, uefa, uefa final, champions league final, champions league 2015, barcelona, juventus, barcelona vs juventus, juventus vs barcelona, football news, football Barcelona won the UEFA Champions League by defeating Juventus 3-1 in the final. (Source: AP)

By: Aurko Mahapatra

Saturday’s Champion’s League final depicted the story of this season. Barcelona scored early and dominated throughout, and apart from the occasional spark from Morata or Pirlo, there wasn’t much to relish for the Bianconeri fans. The game was, in fact, much like the 2014-15 season itself — dominated by a few teams, and although they pleased their fans, there wasn’t much excitement overall.

On the other hand, the previous season (2013-14) was something that will stay with us for a long time. La Liga and the Premier League crowns were both won on the last day, both experiencing exciting three-horse races. For the first time in 10 years, a non El Clasico team won the league. We witnessed a nail-biting Madrid derby in the final of Champions League. We witnessed the rise of new stars like Sterling, Janujaz, Hazard, Diego Costa and Immobile.

And even though the fight for the title was shortlived in the Bundesliga and Seria A, the performances put out by some teams were thoroughly enjoyed by the fans.

In contrast, the 2014-15 season will surely be one to forget. Unlike last year, none of the four major leagues were up for grabs till the last match day. The Spanish defending champs, Atletico Madrid, weren’t even contenders all season, while Manchester City put up a whimpering defence of their title, losing out to Chelsea by 9 points. The monopolies in Germany and Italy continued, as Juventus and FC Bayern once again had cakewalks.

And still, every season and tournament throws up its stars, and here’s my list of standout performers from this year. You could say this would be my starting 11, if I got to play God for a day.

David De Gea (Goalkeeper)

There is no doubt about the man who deserves to stand between the sticks. The Manchester United No. 1 may not have gotten many cleansheets, but he saved Van Gaal’s reputation as he got the least of support from the leaky Manchester United back three. He pulled off saves which the best of goalkeepers would call impossible, and deserves maximum credit for The Red Devils’ 4th position finish.

Leonardo Bonucci (Right-Centre Back)

Boulder Bonucci, led the Bianconeri’s defence by example, and played a key role to their return to European supremacy. Along with Barzaghli and Chiellini, he formed Europe’s strongest and most reliable defence. Allowing minimum errors, this season was surely one of his best.

John Terry (Centre Back)

The Chelsea veteran was expected to be ousted from the Blues defence soon, as Jose Mourinho took over in 2013. However, the captain flourished under the pressure and fought off competition from Kongolo and David Luiz to seal his starting position which eventually resulted in the departure of Luiz. This season, he came out even stronger, playing every minute of Chelsea’s Premier League campaign and certainly deserves to be placed among Europe’s best.

Gerard Pique (Left-Centre Back)

Last season was a disappointing one for Barcelona as they barely achieved anything, and the defence was the centre of their problems. Questions were being raised whether Pique deserved to be a part of a world class club like Barca and he silenced the critics in style with his performances this season.

Kevin De Bruyne (Right Mid)

The Chelsea reject hit the ground running at VFL Wolfsburg, making a huge contribution to their second place finish with 29 assists and 16 goals. His long range stunner against Dortmund in the final of the German cup was an apt representation of his season. Although he may not stay at Volkswagen arena for long after some of Europe’s big dogs have expressed desire for his signature, that in no way hampers his place in Europe’s best eleven.

Paul Pogba (Right-Centre Mid)

The 22-year-old is undoubtedly Europe’s brightest talent, and his long-range screamers and spectacular vision helped Juventus complete a domestic double and reach Champions League final. Even after an amazing season with Juventus, Pogba is expected to leave the Bianconeri, and a range of clubs, with Real Madrid in the lead, are likely destinations.

Ivan Rackitic (Left-Centre Mid)

The Croatian genius has fit right into the Barcelona system, and hasn’t let the fans feel the absence of Fabregas. His composure and stamina have led the Catalans to a stellar season winning the treble for the second time in history.

Eden Hazard (Left Mid)

Hazard was undoubtedly Chelsea’s star player and the Player of the Year winner seems to be only getting better. He showed amazing maturity and experience for a 24-year-old, and his beautiful dribbles helped Chelsea wrap up the title in style with two games remaining.

Lionel Messi (Right Forward)

Magical Messi returned to his best in 2014-15, as he notched up 48 goals and 25 assists in all competitions. He spearheaded Barcelona’s lethal attack, as they notched up a historic tally of 120 goals. He only seems to be improving, and has been the best player in 2015. If he continues like this, the Ballond’or will surely be his in December.

Sergio Kun Aguero (Striker)

Although Manchester City endured a terrible season, Sergio Aguero kept up his performances as a world-class striker. The Golden Boot winner established himself as the best striker in the Premier League, scoring 32 goals in all.

Cristiano Ronaldo (Left Forward)

The Portuguese was in fantastic goal-scoring form once again. The goal machine finished top-scorer in the La Liga, and although Real finished the season without winning any major titles, the Real Madrid stalwart didn’t leave anything to desire in terms of his performances.

Luis Enrique (Manager)

There were many managers who were contenders for this post, like Allegri, Guardiola and Mourinho. But there is no doubt that Enrique is the man to handle the team, as without any history of managing big teams, he won a treble at one of the largest teams in the world who just returned from a trophyless season. At the start of season, there were rumours of growing tension between Enrique and Messi, with many Blaugrana fans fearing their talisman’s departure, but Enrique’s man-management skills convinced Messi to stay, and he returned to his best again.

Substitutes

Manuel Neuer (FC Bayern)
David Alaba (FC Bayern)
Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Wayne Rooney (Manchester United)
Carlos Tevez (Juventus)

(Aurko Mahapatra is a student of Class XI at Step By Step School, Noida, and an avid reader of The Indian Express)

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